The most wasted of all days is one without laughter – E.E. Cummings

Category: Family

Couch to Disney

disneyland-00-fullAfter 11 weeks of counting down with a 4-year-old, our family trip to Disneyland has finally come and gone and I have to say it was one of the most magical things I’ve ever done. I loved seeing the sparkle in my kids’ eyes as we experienced all that Disney had to offer. The princesses, the Mouse, the rides, the movies. . .

Ok, this is starting to sound like an unforgettable Trip Advisor review but let’s get to the brass tax: that had to be the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done. Seriously. By the time our first day at the park was over, we had walked 10.5 miles, stood in line for approximately 6 hours and did all of it in wet clothes thanks to the ever-popular Splash Mountain. THAT WAS THE FIRST DAY! All because we love our kids, am I right?

Doing Disney as an adult is completely different with children than without (you can fully understand the difference when you see exactly ZERO adults wearing a harness cleverly disguised as a backpack); going as a solo adult or with a companion is the most fantastic type of vacation – carefree and full of churros. With kids, it’s basically a marathon to see what family can out-last all others before the witching hour occurs (I’m not talking Halloween, folks. I’m talking about that magical hour in which your kids turn from fun-loving, character-hugging sweethearts to angry elves whose heads rotate ALL the way around like the birds in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room. Sit in Downtown Disney between the hours of 7 and 9 pm and you’ll get a clear view of what I’m talking about.)

Everyone will do Disney at some point with littles, it’s basically a rite of passage like getting your driver’s license or renting your first car; whether they be nieces and nephews or your own ungrateful spawn, it will happen. And you’ll know the secret that all adults know. And you’ll come home with the best memories and worst feet of your life to show for it.

So in an effort to prep you for your sojourn into the “happiest place on Earth”, I’ve created a training program for you to adequately prepare your mind and body for what it’s about to experience. It’s critical that you don’t go into this cold – much like the “Couch to 5k” running program, this adventure takes time so please go at your own pace. If you don’t feel ready to move on to the next training phase, stick with the current one until you feel adequately prepared to up your game. If all goes according to schedule, you should be prepared to tackle Disney WITH kids in a mere three weeks.

Please note that I am not a doctor and in no way make claims that this training program is FDA or CIA or MBA approved. I do, however, guarantee that the following training regimen will, in fact, give you a little glimpse into what to expect.

Couch to Disney Training Program, all rights reserved

Day 1: Empty your wallet

Day 2-7: Walk for 3 hours (to increase the difficulty, try doing this with a stroller or with a dog. While animals are not allowed in the park, the pulling motion will accurately simulate the excitement level of all children under five once they get inside the park . . . or near the park. . . or think about the park. . . or hear someone talking about the park. A secondary option is to do this in wet clothes; also very effective.)

Day 8: Rest day. Rather than walking today, practice loading as many non-prescription medications onto your person as possible.* These should include Dramamine, Tylenol, Desitin or any other chafing medication that you can get in a travel-sized tube. Practice spilling them on the floor along with suckers and other children’s candy and picking them all up before anyone notices. Repeat 5-6 times.

*cargo pants are encouraged

Day 9-14: Walk for 10 minutes. Stand for 70 minutes. Repeat 8 times. (Increase strength and agility by having someone follow you with a stroller during your walking periods and try to dodge them running into your ankles. This not only adds some diversity and fun to your workout, but a little realism as well).

Day 15: Rest. And by that I mean find a thin rock wall somewhere that looks like it’s maybe wide enough for your butt to fit on but clearly not comfortable and sit there for two hours. Another alternative is to find a park bench in the scorching hot sun and “rest” there for a while, all while playing “It’s a Small World” on repeat.

Day 16: Walk for 30 minutes. Stand for 50 minutes. Eat a basket of fried chicken parts and fries and a super-sized cola product. Stay nourished, stay hydrated, folks. Repeat five times.

Day 17-21: Put all you’ve learned into practice. It’s go time, folks. Here we go: Walk 20 minutes. Stand 40 minutes. Walk 30 minutes. Stand 15 minutes. Crawl around on the floor for 10 minutes (hypothetically speaking, you lost a child’s shoe during a parade. Crawl like that.) Grab a stroller with a 40 pound weight in it. Walk 15 minutes. Stand 65 minutes with 40 pound weight on your hip. Stop for 15 minutes to eat chicken (yes, again) and drink a large cola. Stand for 10 minutes (ahhhh that was nice). Jog for 12 minutes (get that FastPass!), stand for 10. Eat a churro. Drop it on the floor and run over it with the stroller. Walk for 10 minutes. Ram ankles with hard object (simulated stroller) and continue to walk for 40 minutes but with an additional 80 pound weight in the stroller (the older kid that SWORE they wouldn’t need a ride is now riding). Repeat four times before covering yourself in everyone’s jackets and hats for the 30 minute walk home . . . with some chicken and a large cola.

Happy training, y’all.

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It’s difficult to know exactly when it happens but one day, we wake up and come to the stark realization that we are, in fact, old. I remember being little and hearing my mom say that she was turning 30, to which I ever-so-politely responded, “I’ve never heard a number that big before!” (I was a cute kid, but apparently more verbose than polite). What I wouldn’t give to be 30 again – body parts would look infinitely more proportionate and I could eat ice cream without first having to consult the clock. BRING BACK 30!

The strange thing about aging is that we rarely feel it. Ask any 30(ish)-year-old and they would believe that they could easily blend in with the high-school seniors of today. (Just as a side note, I advise against attempting this. You wandering the halls in your letterman’s jacket, looking like a creeper will likely land you in jail rather than the senior picture. But I digress. . .) We all think we are invincible and that age is “just a number”. . . that is until you try to do a cartwheel for the first time in a decade and end up with a sprained wrist and a black eye. Note: Gravity will always show your true age. Ooooh, that’s good. Can someone put that on a t-shirt?

As we age, we not only take on a new look but also a slew of new responsibility. We quickly go from worrying about part-time jobs and thesis papers to mortgages and life-spanning relationships. The transition is crazy and frankly, not super gradual. “What day did I wake up and just start doing critical things? Was I warned? Does this realization frighten anyone else? I’m hyperventilating.”

How do you know when you are ready to take on these responsibilities? Does priority mail arrive from some department at the IRS saying, “Congratulations. After careful consideration, we feel as though you are ready to “adult”.”? (That’s how you know it’s important – priority mail. Maybe that’s the sign? The first time you sign for a registered letter. . . Again, I digress.)

Some would argue that the government has already established this line of adulthood with the legal drinking age – you are officially an adult when you can enter a bar. That seems a little odd, doesn’t it? My ability to hold liquor is directly related to my ability to be responsible? I’m not sure about this.

As I’ve observed people around me “adult-ing”, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t that difficult to know if you are ready to join the throngs of others living out their lives in responsible bliss. I find these few indicators to be much more accurate than a thumbs up from Bubba the bouncer. How do I know this? First, because there are plenty of people above the legal drinking age that are yet to master these basic concepts. People may even reach the ripe-old-age of 30 (gasp!) and still not have them under control, which in my world means that you are not yet allowed to be called an adult. Second, these are more closely related to a person’s character than a game of beer pong, so there’s that.

“What are these principles?” you ask? “Tell us! Tell us now!” Ok, I’ll tell you. And this one’s on the house.

Principle #1: You are “adult-ing” when you can respect other people’s opinions even if, nay ESPECIALLY IF, they are different than your own. Now I know that every single person reading this is saying to themselves “Oh, that’s me, for sure. I’m totally that.” But is it? When is the last time you got into an emotional political debate where you were so heated that you threw out a “neener neener” or maybe a “you’re so stupid” or some other trite argument as if you were a brother and sister fighting over the last Pop-Tart (mmmm, Pop-Tarts)? Is that adult-ing? I submit that it is not.

Now don’t go sending me messages about how I’m a hypocrite because I, too, like to get into heated “discussions” about a variety of topics –healthcare, gun laws, the best flavor of Pop-Tarts. Any one of these can get me fired up at a moment’s notice. I just choose to get fired up behind closed doors rather than on social media. But I do have my sparks. I’m just learning to control them.

Being passionate about things is not a sign of weakness. Everyone should be passionate about something (unless that something is your girlfriend and you are 13, then stop it. Stop it right now.). Passion is what should drive us to learn and hopefully become better. I’m all for passion. Controlled, non-movie-theater passion.

Not to get cliché and all “‘Merica” on my readers but imagine what the country would be like if it weren’t founded on a variety of ideas and eventual compromise. If one person’s opinion were always right, we wouldn’t be a republic, we would be living in a dictatorship; and we wouldn’t be America, we would be an island in the Pacific that shall remain nameless because that movie already caused enough problems for us. . . Anyway, you get my point. Founding principle: various opinions and discussions (likely heated ones), and decisions made in compromise for the greater good. ‘Merica.

I have learned over time that everyone has a different opinion because of their experiences (or lack of) with a given topic. Take my earlier example on healthcare (I know you were hoping I was going to say “Pop-Tarts””. If you want to know how I feel about those, read my book): my opinion on our healthcare system is likely very different from someone who has never had to research or pay for their family’s healthcare. It’s probably also vastly different from someone who has never had good healthcare. It doesn’t make any one of us right or wrong in our opinion, we only know what we know based on our experiences. And you know you are “adult-ing” when you can discuss those experiences and still walk away without sweating. Anger-induced sweat is really gross.

Principle #2: You are “adult-ing” when you learn to live within your means. This concept seems so simple and yet is mind-blowingly difficult for most people. Some thoughts:

I could write a series of blogs about what it takes to be debt free and the amount of freedom that it offers but I’ll leave that to those trusty late-night infomercials. The concept of living within your financial means is really as simple as this: if you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. That’s it. I know that sounds crazy with all of the low-and-no-payment options for financing but seriously, just don’t do it. People that are “adult-ing” work for what they have and pay for what they want. They manage their finances and do what it takes to avoid owing people money. (As the P.C. side note of the day: there are always extenuating circumstances for borrowing money. That’s why the system was created in the first place. I’m talking about long-term, no feel-bads dependency on borrowed cash, y’all. It’s no bueno.). Live within your financial means. You’ll be much happier. You can quote me on it.

Second example: if you only have the means to take care of three children, don’t have seven. While it would be easy to just call this a financial issue, it’s not. While finances are a Yuuuuuuge consideration (you see what I did there? You’re welcome.), you also need to have the “means” to support your children emotionally and socially and mentally. In fact, I think that we’d all agree that someone who offers a stable environment to a child but can’t buy them a new pair of shoes every six weeks is operating much higher on the “adult-ing” scale than the inverse. Kids need time and love and support and if you can’t give them an environment that provides that (however you give it to them), it’s time to rethink your breeding options. Live within your “means” – what can you handle emotionally, financially, physically?

My point here is this: know your limitations. Whether it be considering all of your financial obligations before buying a new jet boat or understanding your time restraints before opening a petting zoo, it’s critical that you are constantly assessing your life and exactly what you can handle. That isn’t saying that situations don’t change (note the constant assessment reference), but you need to know where you are at and what you are dealing with before you make any major life decisions. That, my friends, is “adult-ing”.

AdultingPrinciple #3: You are “adult-ing” when you learn to commit to things. I’m not talking just the “‘till death do us part’” kind of commitment although there is a major epidemic called “fear” or “wussiness” that surrounds that type of commitment as well these days. I am talking about committing to anything, even your Saturday night plans.

When someone sends you a text on Monday and says “Hey, we are going to an art show and dinner on Saturday, would you like to join us?” there are two acceptable responses: yes or no. Don’t text back, “Can I let you know in a few days?” because we all know that this translates to “I want to see if I get any better offers before committing to something.” This is rude and not “adult-ing”. It’s like looking at your Facebook feed in the middle of a conversation – you are basically telling the other party that you like them enough to consider the offer but if someone(thing) that sounds better comes up, you’re outtie.

Just to be clear, we all know that things come up. If you say “yes” to an activity and your grandma ends up in the hospital, it’s ok to change plans. If you agree to my art gallery date and you suddenly get front-row tickets to see Garth, you are excused (as long as you take me with you). But commit to something! Make plans, and then keep them.

You kids are about to have your minds blown: there once was a time when you couldn’t cancel plans at the last second because your sorry bum would have been in the car thirty minutes before any activity and you’d be looking and hand-scratched directions on how to get to the birthday party you are headed to, yelling at your mom that she took a wrong turn. . . whoa, flashback. I’m back. You wouldn’t have had access to call and cancel or to say that you were going to be late. You had to plan ahead and be on-time, otherwise everyone waiting for you thought you died in a fiery crash. You showed up on time and stayed the whole time because that’s what you said you would do. I know: Mind. Blown.

But seriously, while technology has lessened our fiery-crash worries, it has increased the amount of inconsideration. We are late, we cancel last minute, we change plans with little or no regret. You know you are taking a step toward “adult-ing” when you can commit to an activity, show up on time and keep your word.

That’s it. Three principles. This is easier to memorize than any pledge and easier to implement than the commandments. If you can honor these three things, I can honor you as an adult, regardless of what your ID says. Let’s all commit to get moving in the right direction and start being the adult-er-ers we always knew we could be. Er. . . strike that.


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Thinking Inside the Box

Carlee HansenAt the end of last October, I started a family journal. As much as I love writing, I am less than stellar at telling Dear Diary all about my day – at least I haven’t been as good at it once I stopped having a different crush every week and my journals evolved from lock-bearing, rainbow-covered hardbacks to something a little less ostentatious. Journaling is time consuming and arduous and frankly, most of my days aren’t filled with events that reach ‘write it down’ caliber. So for years I’ve brushed off the need to record my personal history and move on to more critical matters, like recording my favorite television shows.

Anyway, last October I kept having this want to write things down for my kids – the activities that we did, the places that we went and so on. Partly I wanted them to remember our history and traditions and carry them forward; but mostly I just wanted some ammo for when they get a little older and try to tell me what a crappy mom I am: “Uh uh uh, March 4 last year I took you to the Treehouse Museum. Who’s the crappy mom, now!?” The more I thought about this (and saw how sassy my girls can get), the more sense it made.

Enter the box.

On one of my many trips to the largest retailer in America who shall remain nameless because I’m not being paid a commission, I purchased a less-than-flashy index card box. Wait, strike that. I think it was my mom who was running to said retailer and asked if I needed anything and I shouted in anticipation, “Yes! A cheap box to hold index cards! And index cards!” Yes, that’s how it went.

Important side note: if this ever-popular retailer would like to talk about commissions for mentions on my blog, you know where to find me. That is all.

Anyway, I filled my box with index cards and got to work. Every day I wrote a single sentence(ish) – something we did, places we went, laundry that was folded, something. Some days were fun (last year on October 29th, Mack went bowling for her first time and scored and 87) and others lacked the luster that I would hope would go on each card (there are countless days that say words like “laundry”, “Lunchable” and “movies”. Probably more than I want to admit.). But the point isn’t the content (exactly). The point was to write something down. And I’m proud to say that I made it. 365 days of cards, each with a bit of information about what we have done as a family in the last year. And I learned a few things along the way. Let’s be honest, you knew this was coming:

You might think that writing a simple sentence every day is a pretty easy goal. Well, Snobby Sally, it wasn’t for me. Just remembering to open the box was a task. There were times when I had to play catch-up (thank the heavens for iPhone calendars) for an entire week. (Also thank heaven that my goal wasn’t 100 push-ups a day. Am I right? Imagine catching up on those suckers.)

Take away: don’t procrastinate because catching up is miserable. Shout out to all my high-school peeps struggling with this on a daily basis, yo!

If you’ve been to my house in the last year, you’d have noticed that whatever my table décor was at the time, it was always accompanied by this little blue box. I had to put it there so that it would annoy me enough to stay up on my entries. And it worked. So, in true Stephen Covey fashion, I submit this as a truth: If you want to accomplish something that is hard, you better put it right in your face. Like right in your face. Like look at it every time you pass the table, in your face. You have to constantly think about your goals, look at them, and dream about them (I only had like six nightmares about index cards in the last year. Pretty good, I’d say.).

I once read a poem called “The Will to Win” that I repeat (the first couple of lines) in my head whenever I have a goal to reach. Even though my goal was “only” to make a journal entry each day for a year, I had to repeat this to myself because I struggle. Although it’s probably more applicable if you are training to be the next Tiger Woods, I still found it helpful for me to stay on task . . . and to stop having dreams about giant, blood-sucking index cards.

The next thing that this little project taught me was about time – it’s limited and if you are going to fill it, fill it with something that is worth writing down. This doesn’t mean daily trips to the zoo or “Firework Tuesdays” or anything even close to that. Let me explain:

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of “down” days over the last year – ones filled with tedious tasks like grocery shopping at (your name could be mentioned HERE, big retailer man!), or nursing kids back to health with unlimited iPad games and popsicles. But as I’ve wrapped up the year, I’ve become ‘okay’ with the fact that that is my life! Lots of plain-Jane days interspersed with noteworthy moments like a mom and daughter date to Lagoon, funerals of relatives and their loved ones, trips to the lake and first steps.

My goal this year was just to write something down. Anything. And I made it. My goal for this year is to notice. I’m not going to change anything about the way I parent (although I should) or the activities that we do (although I should) but I am going to take the time to notice the miracle moments every day. Amidst the laundry and shopping and homework, there are amazing, noteworthy things to write down like my daughter telling her first knock-knock joke or my baby falling down six stairs and giggling at the bottom (don’t call CPS – this doesn’t happen often) or my husband bringing home dinner because he knew I was tired. These are the legacy moments that I want my kids to look back and remember – the ones that show our character (even if they won’t prove what a stellar mom I was by visiting Chucky Cheese once a month).

The last thing that this little project taught me was probably the most important: I can do hard thing. I can do annoying things. I can do things that I have a bad attitude about. And I can do them for a whole YEAR! It’s astounding, the resilience of the human spirit, isn’t it?

But what’s more important is that those things become less annoying, less hard, less tedious when we see them for what they actually are: important. We set goals because something behind the goal is important to us. I’ve found that the mean (the goal) is very rarely what I’m after; it’s what I gain in the end that is why I set goals, this little blue box included.

My goals: I want to remember my family at this stage of life. I want my kids to remember our traditions and the things that we did. But most of all, I want them to remember me. I want them to see what I thought was important, that I saw them sharing (that one time) . . . and that I noticed.

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